Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer

Whether you’ve brewed 3, 30, or 300 batches of homebrew before, you’ve probably been inclined to brew a beer that’s different than what commercial breweries often produce. Classic styles are great, but, you want to do something different, something special! Enter the Spice, Herb or Vegetable beer category! In this category, you take a classic style— say an IPA—and add a complimentary ingredient, maybe lemongrass. You choose some great flavor hops like Citra and Amarillo to pair well with the added citrus of the lemongrass. The beer still tastes like an IPA, but it also showcases the unique flavor that lemongrass imparts. There are two things to keep in mind when brewing a beer for this category in competition: 1) the base beer style needs to be obvious, and 2) any special ingredients you list need to be obvious. If you brew a beer with five herbs, but only two are really noticeable, it’s better to just list those two rather than lose points because the other three aren’t discernable.

The 2008 BJCP guidelines for this category had two subcategories: Standard Spice, Herb, Vegetable and Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced. Standard S/H/V received an update in 2014, broadening and clarifying the guidelines for aroma, flavor, and overall style. In addition, the new guidelines have added a third subcategory: Autumn Seasonal. This covers the popular pumpkin and fall spiced beers that have been showing up more often, both commercially and at homebrew competitions. Winter Specialty remained the same as far as guidelines for judging are concerned.

With standard S/H/V beer, the guidelines make it clear to keep in mind the base style when judging the beer. Note how it is affected by the S/H/V ingredients. Some key characteristics of the base style can be subdued, sometimes intentionally, to allow the S/H/V aroma and flavor to shine. Balance is key here, however. The S/H/V shouldn’t completely overwhelm the base style of the beer. Likewise, any S/H/V mentioned on the entry form needs to be noticeable. When judges have to really hunt for these ingredients, they will give the beer a lower score. There was a slight change in this subcategory. This sentence was removed from the 2014 guidelines: “If the base beer is an ale then a non-specific fruitiness and/or other fermentation by-products such as diacetyl may be present as appropriate for warmer fermentations. If the base beer is a lager, then overall less fermentation byproducts would be appropriate.” (BJCP 2008 Guidelines.) This was most likely removed to get rid of generalized assumptions that may not have been accurate. Also added to the 2014 guidelines under Overall Impressions: “The individual character of each SHV may not always be individually identifiable when used in combination.” (BJCP 2014 Guidelines.) The key here for judges is to keep in mind that adding these S/H/V components is going to change the base style of the beer. When the base style is still evident, the S/H/V component(s) is/are appropriately showcased, in balance, and brewing process flaws are not present. That’s an award winning beer in this subcategory.

With the 2014 guidelines, there is a new subcategory called Autumn Seasonal. Beers in this subcategory include any S/H/V that one might associate with fall. An obvious style here, which has taken the American Craft Beer scene by storm in recent years, is the pumpkin beer. Other beers that might fall into this subcategory (pun intended) include beers spiced like pumpkin pie (which don’t contain pumpkin), beers that use other fall squash, and beers that have overall spices reminiscent of fall and harvest. Traditionally these beers are malt forward, with the S/H/V components playing a supporting role. There are certain base beer styles that lend themselves more towards this subcategory, like ambers, stouts, browns, and porters. These beers do not typically display a complex hop profile, as the spices tend to take the place of their role. Again, like in the standard S/H/V subcategory, balance is critical in this style.

If you’re looking to make a beer that’s both unique, yet classic, a Spice/Herb/Vegetable beer may be just what you’re looking to brew. Starting with a base style that you already brew well, like a stout, and then adding a couple of ingredients that compliment it, like chocolate and mint, could be a great way to showcase to your friends what a creative brewer you are! As long as your base style is done well, and your added ingredients are in balance with it, you can brew an award winning beer!



Mashed Out: The Mashing Out Wrap Up Show | Craft Beer Nation

Sour - Cropped

We all know that cleaning and sanitation are important parts of brewing beer. Often we joke that being a professional brewer is actually a glorified janitorial job. Whether you are a new brewer or you’ve been brewing for years, it’s important to evaluate your cleaning procedures from time to time. Sometimes we get into a routine and fail to be as thorough as we should be.

Cleaning can be said to be even more important than sanitation because you cannot sanitize dirt. There are a few key factors that play a part in the cleaning process: time, temperature, concentration and agitation. Regardless of what cleaning and sanitation products or procedures you use, remember, this is always a two-step process. There is no one-step method on the market that does what you need to do to brew a great beer. Even products that market themselves as “One-Step” need to be used twice to achieve the appropriate level of sanitation. If you’re using bleach, this also needs to be done twice—once for cleaning and again for sanitation. My personal preferences for cleaning and sanitation products are Five Star brand PBW (Professional Brewers Wash) and Star San. I’ve used these two products exclusively since I started brewing several years ago, and they are, in my opinion, the best option for new brewers and seasoned brewers alike. My focus today will be on these two products. That said, we all have our methods—as long as you are using what you use in a two-step process and following package directions, you’ll be great.

So what is PBW? As I said, it’s my favorite cleaner to use. It’s got a few key components that make it a great option for homebrewers and pro brewers alike. PBW is a mild alkaline, a surfactant, a chelation (pronounced key-lay-shun) and uses oxygen to clean. PBW is a mild alkaline. An alkaline cleaner is the best kind for cleaning organic deposits created by homebrewing. PBW is so mild that it won’t harm your skin! PBW also has surfactants which break down the surface tension of the water. All surfaces have microscopic pits, that water can’t always get into. While we can’t see them, dirt and bugs can find their way into these places. A surfactant essentially makes water thinner, allowing it to get into these microscopic surfaces. PBW has a chelation agent, which changes the way metal ions bond, helping to reduce these ions from binding with your brewing equipment and reducing the need to clean with a caustic to remove said ions. Simply put, if you have hard water, the chelation agent will keep those minerals off your equipment. Finally, PBW uses active oxygen to penetrate carbon or protein soils. The oxygen also helps in reducing bio oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand in wastewater, which is an added environmental benefit.

Time and temperature work hand in hand. While PBW can be used at various temperature ranges from 60 degrees to 180, it’s most effective at 120 – 140. In fact, when you use this temperature range, you can cut hours off your cleaning process. According to John from Five Star, (as heard on the Brewing Network’s Brew Strong: Cleaning show) a dirty carboy that you would normally soak for 24 hours in tap water temperatures can be cleaned in as little as 30 minutes with a 1 oz to 1 gallon ratio solution. Certainly it’s ok to continue to soak for 24 hours at room temp. I do this all the time with my kegs. It’s just easier to take them outside with hose water than it is to get them in my bathtub to achieve that temp range. Also, make sure you avoid temperatures over 180. This can make the surfactant come out of the solution, causing a crusty film to be left on the side of your container.

Concentration is also an important part. The package directions say to use 1-3 oz/gallon depending on soil level. John from Five Star says 1 oz is almost always the best concentration. In many cases, when something is extra dirty, it’s almost better to do 1 oz two times than to do 2 oz one time. Interestingly enough, 1 oz of PBW by weight is almost exactly 1 oz by volume. So whichever method you prefer to measure your PBW with, you’ll be correct in regards to concentration…just make sure you measure. If you do not have the proper concentration either you could be wasting product, or worse, you could be using a level that makes the cleaner unsafe to use.

Agitation is another important factor. PBW is made as a CIP (clean in place) cleaner, meaning it will clean with no agitation needed. But if you’re like me, on brew day, you may want to give some of your equipment a quick scrub down before you begin. It can get dusty if you aren’t brewing as often as you’d like! A quick, 1 oz concentration and a sponge does the trick at cleaning everything you need to clean. With this method, time isn’t an issue….just make sure you’re hitting every surface. If you’re using plastic, don’t use anything that would scratch the surface. For stainless or aluminum, a “green scrubby” is always a better option.

Sanitation can’t begin until you’ve got clean equipment. Once you’re there, it’s time to kill any remaining microscopic bugs (bacteria and wild yeast) that remain on your equipment. This is where Star San comes into play. Star San is phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid. At proper concentrations, Star San is a no-rinse sanitizer.

Don’t fear the foam

Star San’s high-foaming action is actually a good thing. When the foam adheres to the surface it’s killing all those bugs. With only 30 seconds of contact, Star San kills a level of bugs that makes the surface safe for beer. Three minutes of contact will achieve NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) sanitary levels. You can sterilize with Star San, but, it would take a much higher concentration (rinse required), and more time. But there is no need to sterilize with brewing. As long as you kill enough of the bug population, it makes it impossible for them to compete with healthy brewer’s yeast and your beer will be saved.

Many times homebrewers will make up batches of Star San in a spray bottle, to use throughout brew day. This is a perfectly acceptable method and will make your Star San go a much longer way than continuously making 5 gallon batches. If you do choose to make 5 gallon batches, you can reuse the sanitizer as long as you’ve stored it in an airtight container. As long as the PH is below 3.5 and the solution is clear, you can still use your Star San. Star San has a tendency to react with heavy metals in tap water, and it can turn cloudy. If you were to use distilled water to make your Star San solution, and keep in an airtight container, it will not break down and can be used over and over again.

You can use Star San as a cleaner. However, it is not a good cleaner for the organic materials found in everyday beer brewing. Instead, it’s an acid, and better for those inorganic materials that build up over time, such as “beer stone” calcium oxalate.

Jon Herskovits of Five Star Chemicals , featured on The Brewing Network’s Brew Strong Cleaning and Sanitation shows.



2014 BJCP Scottish Ale Style Changes

As the temperatures outside get cooler, a nice malty beverage in front of a fire seems like a great way to spend an evening.  There are lots of great styles to choose from, but some of my favorites for this time of year are Scottish ales.  From Scottish Light to Wee Heavy, you can choose to spend the evening having a few of the former, or sipping one of the latter, while hanging out with friends.  In recent years there has been some confusion on these styles-mostly the “shilling” styles, the style names, specific flavors, aromas and brewing processes have been in question.  The soon-to-be finalized 2014 guidelines will correct previously inaccurate information and debunk common myths about these styles.

In the 2008 guidelines, the styles of Scottish ale were as follows: Scottish Light 60/-Scottish Heavy 70/- Scottish Export 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale. The shilling categories were derived from price charged per hogshead (54 Imperial gallons) during the 1800’s; the stronger or better quality beers were more expensive. In 2014, BJCP will be moving to a Scottish ale category containing Scottish Light, Scottish Heavy and Scottish Export. Wee Heavy will move to Strong British Ales. You can read more about these guidelines here.

Speaking specifically of the Scottish ale categories, the 2014 BJCP guidelines have a note about the style name changes:  “The original meaning of ‘schilling’ (/-) ales have been described incorrectly for years. A single style of beer was never designated as a 60/-, 70/- or 80/-. The schillings only referring to the cost of the barrel of beer. Meaning there were 54/- Stouts and 86/- IPAs and so on. The Scottish ales in question were termed Light, Heavy and Export, which cover the spectrum of costs from around 60/- to 90/- and simply dark, malt-focused ales. The larger 120/- ales fall outside of this purview as well as the strongest Scotch ales (aka Wee Heavy).”  In other words, the BJCP will no longer categorize the styles of beer by what they might have cost; instead, they will focus on their increasing intensity, much like they did with English Bitters. In fact BJCP 2014 guidelines for Scottish ales will read exactly the same for each style of beer, and, as the gravity increases, so will the character of the beers in question.

Interestingly, peaty and smoky flavors were often referenced as being optional, but acceptable in the 2008 BJCP guidelines.  This no longer is the case in 2014 Scottish Ale category. It seems that this is removed because BJCP has acknowledged that these features would not be present in the more recent representation of the styles. A quote from thciprian on the American Homebrewers Association forum (here) may better explain why “by the early 19th century…brewers were doing everything they could to avoid smoky character in their beer, since it was considered to be a fault. For example, in the early 18th century (~300 years ago), one of the reasons why porter was aged was to give time for the smoke character (from ‘blown’ brown malt) to drop a bit.”  One might think the smoky peat-like character was coming from the malt. However, the 2008 BJCP indicates that the smoke wasn’t from the actual malt kilning process, but “…from the traditional yeast and from the local malt and water rather than using smoked malts.” Possibly by the late 1900s, the Scottish people had figured out a way to decrease the smoke-like character produced by their water and yeast. There is even a mention from the BJCP that “Scottish ales with smoke character should be entered as a Classic Style Smoked Beer.”  They aren’t saying it isn’t an accurate style characteristic, just not an accurate one for these new guidelines.

Finally, In the 2008 guidelines, kettle caramelization was considered a hallmark of the style, but in 2014 it has been deemed inaccurate. In both Scottish ales and Wee Heavy, the guidelines do not indicate that kettle caramelization is appropriate. In fact, for Scottish ales, The new guidelines include “malt-focused ales that gain the vast majority of their character from specialty malts, never the process. Burning malt or wort sugars via ‘kettle caramelization’ is not traditional nor is any blatantly ‘butterscotch’ character.”   Despite a bit of digging around the internet, there are no other references to this lack of kettle caramelization.  Even the Oxford Companion of Beer (2011) references it as part of the style: “Scotch ale traditionally goes through a long boil in the kettle. This was particularly the case in days when the kettles were direct fired by flame…”  By the 19th and 20th centuries, boiling wort over an open flame may not have been the preferred method, and the patent malt machine was invented. Caramelization would have come from the grains themselves, and not the pot.  It will be interesting to see if more information about this is published as we progress into 2015.

The majority of the information above focused on the new Scottish ale styles, but, some of it applies to Wee Heavy too.  While the name wasn’t changed, it was moved to a different category.  Also, per the 2014 BJCP guidelines, there’s no longer a mention of kettle caramelization. Smokiness is considered appropriate but optional in this category: “Slight smoke character may be present in some versions, but derives from roasted grains or a long, vigorous boil. Peated malt is absolutely not traditional.”  This is “more related to historical brews than the lower-strength Scottish ales, these beers have their roots in the strong ales of the 1700s and 1800s, although formulations and methods have changed. A premium product, often produced for export[…]modern versions have lower starting and finishing gravities than their historical ancestors.”

What hasn’t changed from 2008 to 2014 is the target numbers for these styles. The same gravities, IBUs, and ABVs are still appropriate.  The BJCP has simply moved to a more accurate representation of newer Scottish ales, from their names, and ingredients, to brewing process.  So next time you’re enjoying a Scottish ale or a Wee Heavy, think about how you might brew your next batch to reflect these style changes!  And good luck at your next competition!


BJCP 2008 Guidelines

BJCP 2014 Guidelines Draft

AHA Forum





The Session: The Preferred Book of Choice

The Session

A brewing book I would like to see would be one about session beers. Our love affair with high ABV beers has long been established, and only in recent years have we seen the craft beer community putting more focus on beers that won’t knock you to the floor if you have a few in one sitting. I’d like to see a book with a few different sections, including: the history of commercial session beer, special aspects of brewing a good session beer, and how-to tips for home brewers looking to brew their own.

We’ve seen quite a rise in popularity recently in session beers, especially session IPAs.  But session beers were around long before that, even if they weren’t called that. The English ordinary bitter is a perfect example of a historical session beer. No doubt the saison brewed for farm workers in Belgium would have been of the session variety. Germany certainly had its share of session type beers. In fact, at one time, people had to drink beer instead of water, and certainly they wouldn’t have wanted to be drinking beer with a high ABV. I think the history of low ABV beer could be quite interesting.

There are certainly special aspects that go into brewing a commercial session beer. Breweries don’t want to brew a watered-down version of their standard AVB beers and call it their session. They want a lower ABV beer that has huge aroma and flavor. To achieve this, I’m sure they’ve got methods they’re using. This is especially true for the session IPA. In order to achieve a lower ABV, one has to have less fermentable sugar in the starting wort, which usually means using less grain. Hops not being affected by fermentation may seem to not play a part, but balance is so important, even in an IPA. Hop a 4% beer like an 8% beer and you may find you’re drinking hop tea. Learning what’s going on at some of the bigger breweries making session IPAs would make a great read.

Being a lover of commercial craft beer often leads you down the path to brew your own. There are many books on home brewing in the market, but none that focus solely on low ABV styles. Showcasing these styles, and educating home brewers on how to brew a high flavored beer without a high ABV punch would be useful. Home brewers would benefit from reading about how the pros brew their session beers, and these lessons could be discussed on a 5 gallon level.

A session beer book would be a great read. I would love to see one of these hit the market in the coming year. I love drinking lower ABV beer, and I know others do as well. A tome on the history of lower ABV styles, how pro brewers brew their beer, and how the home brewer might apply these to their own brew pot could find a home in many beer lovers’ libraries.



South Carolina and Stone, beer legislation brewing in the State Senate

Stone is considering locating in SC.

Well maybe.   We are “on the list” of possible locations for a brewery east of the Mississippi River.  Several of our major population centers (Lexington, Myrtle Beach, Greenville) have made a proposal to Stone to come to their area.  We offer cheap land, people able to work at a fair wage, good highway networks for the beer to be distributed upon and friendly business law and regulation.  Mostly…

The “mostly” is currently being worked on by our state legislature. One of our state’s “beer lawyers”  Brook Bristow  from www.beerofsc.com and others from the South Carolina Brewers Association (Shout out to Jamie at Coast Brewing, I know she’s been working hard at this for years) put together a bill that would allow stone to be both a brewpub and a brewery. Brewpub in that they will serve food, and brewery in that they will distribute.  Currently in SC, a brewpub can make up to 2000 barrels a year for on premise consumption.  They are allowed to sell growlers to of their beer to go, but, they are not allowed to distribute.  You will not see any of our current excellent brew pubs  such as Hunter Gatherer and Old Mill Brewpub here in Columbia at any other bar or restaurant in the city.  On the other end of the beer spectrum, our local breweries such as Conquest and Riverrat can’t serve food. If you want to eat while your’re enjoying a pint there, you had better hope a food truck is there for the day. 

(Here is Brook’s article on “The Stone Bill” )

The new law would allow brewpubs to make up to 500,000 barrels a year and distribute.  This means current breweries could start serving food and convert their license to a brewpub license.  They would no longer be held to the 3 beer max per person per day on primes, and, to my knowledge, no longer be limited by the 288 oz (24/12oz bottles or 4- 64oz growlers) per day limit for off premise.  They would no longer be required to give a tour with each sale.

The law was create to attract Stone, and other large breweries looking for expansion. but would benefit our local breweries regardless of what Stone decides to do.  Any sales made directly at the brewery puts more $ in the small business’s pocket, giving them more income to expand and employee more people.   This doesn’t mean distribution and the three tier systems as we know it will end for local breweries.  People still want to drink local craft beer at other restaurants and bars.  And breweries do not want to own trucking companies, they want to brew beer.  It just means that more local craft beer will be accessible, more money will stay with the brewery, and, people might start to choose local craft beer over mass marked light lager products.

Which is where the letter from Anheuser Busch comes in to play. (A link to “The letter” The folks over at AB wrote a letter to the SC Senate, asking them to please consider not passing this legislation.   The bill “creates winners and losers”…. because the currently legislation doesn’t?   We’re legislating that breweries have to give much of their product to a third party if they want to produce more than they can sell at their own facility.   AB is afraid because they’ll lose market share as more and more consumers become aware of what local, craft beer has to offer.  They would prefer to keep legislation the way it is, as it’s currently in their favor.

We are running out of time to get this legislation passed.  But we have come so far with it so quickly, there is quite a bit of hope in the craft beer community that we’ll get it passed this session.  If the legislature will ignore the letter, and recognize that, while AB does have quite a bit of $ now to buy legislation, they are losing market share every year.  The jobs and the tax dollars generated from craft beer will greatly exceed what’s generated from light lager sells.  AB know’s that, and that’s why they are trying to stop the growth now.   If you’re following craft beer nation on G+, Twitter, or Facebook, look for updates on this bill.  And if you see a link asking you to contact our local legislature, please help South Carolina out and follow through with this.  We sent over 1900 emails in 2 hours last week asking the Senate to pass this bill.  If we need to, I think we can do twice that this week.

We’ve got to stand by our local small businesses and craft beer!  Join me in helping South Carolina Beer!



The Beer Geek and the Beast

My name is Ashley, and I love craft beer.

I love everything about beer, from brewing it to drinking it.  I also love supporting local, small business. And I love the relationships that are formed over beer. Sharing beer is the best! What I hate, however, is the craft beer beast. From trashing other peoples beer choices, to hording rare release beers for themselves or trade bait, sometimes there’s a darker side to craft beer love.

I sat down at a bar several weeks ago and ordered a South Carolina IPA.  It’s not the best IPA on the planet, but, it’s not bad.  A couple wandered up to the bar and asked for a Hop Drop and Roll.  It’s one of my favorites, so, being the friendly gal I am, I asked if they’d had it before.  They said they had, and we struck up a conversation.  Fast forward about 15 minutes and a single fellow walks up and sits at the other side of the bar.  He orders a Bud Light.  There’s a sporting event on. Everyone’s watching,  a commercial comes on, something funny occurs, and we all get to talking.  Then, after a few words, the fellow in the couple asks the single fellow why he’s drinking *hit beer where there are so many craft options on tap here.

The single fellow starts trying to defend his choice.  It’s crazy.  This is no way to convert a light lager drinker!  And Bud Light isn’t a *hit beer!  Is it relatively flavorless….well, yes. But do you know how hard it is to brew a flavorless beer! Is it produced by a massive corporation that only cares about the bottom line, well, yes.  I’m not going to defend them, but, they do brew a quality product and if this fellow likes it, he should drink it.  I’m certainly open to encouraging him to try other beers.  But insulting his beer is NOT the way to do that.

Sadly, that’s not the end of the story.  After the couple and this single fellow civilly disagree about his beer choice, the couple then proceeds to trash just about every IPA on tap at the restaurant except Hop Drop and Roll, Including the one I’m drinking.  I don’t disagree that HDR is the superior IPA, but, that doesn’t make every other IPA out there terrible.  I ended up paying my tab and politely saying goodbye.

Then there’s the white whale hunter.  The person who goes into the bottle shop and says, what’s the rarest thing you have, ok, I’ll take a case of it.  It’s people like this person that cause the rest of us to have a limit. And even with that limit, some people still find a way to break the system. Hunahpu day is the most recent publicized example.  But there have been others, certainly more localized incidents.  I’m all for people trading beer with one another, it’s fun to try brews you can’t get in your hometown. But keeping your local beer loving friends from having that special release because you want to trade with 12 people across the country just doesn’t seem right. Trade one or two, but don’t be greedy. Some of the best beers are overlooked on the shelves because they’re so readily available.

I think to love and appreciate craft beer, is also to want to share it with others.  I would love to see craft beers’ market share jump from 7% to 30%, or more!  But by being a craft beer beast, you’re only keeping craft beer down.  Be a good craft beer geek. Share what you love! Be friendly and welcoming, and don’t hoard all the Double Barrel Aged Sour Stout!

~The Beer Fairy